Staged Boss Encounters.

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It's been done in electronic RPGs for ages and has root far back in the pen and paper (miscellaneous thought; why do we call it pen and paper when most of us prefer pencils?) The subject of staged boss battles comes to mind. Where at certain points of the battle either after a certain amount of time has elapsed or a certain number of HP has been taken from the boss itself. Has anyone tried to implement these in their games? If so how have you done it? I had an idea for an epic show down where the boss may transform (cliche) into a greater beast after it reaches bloodied. Then fly (or jump around, burrow, swim, whichever the environment.) Each time having to adapt to new tactics and abilities of the bad guy. The reason I ask is because I intend to do this to my players however. I wonder if there will be a detraction from fun and excitement or will it just be frustrating and tedious.

My idea:


  • BBEG is a large black knight who wades into battle hefting a big ole war axe against the troops of light. The troops, led by the PCs wage war against the forces of the BBEG until a majority of the shadow troops have been defeated.

  • The BBEG retreats into his Nightmare Fortress, where the PCs have to run a skill challenge chasing him through his castle. Encountering guards, traps and all manner of distractions. (Helpless prisoners chained throughout the castle, who's lifeforce is being drained from them to empower the BBEG.

  • Success or fail only allows for a margin of whether or not the BBEG had time to prepare a few additional traps in his throne room.

  • Enter the throne room, four Dark Honor Guards flank the BBEG's side. The PCs battle.

  • Scenario A) If the guards are defeated prior to the BBEG getting bloodied; the BBEG transforms into a shadow creature, becoming incorporeal making guerrilla attacks on the party swooping around the room. PCs have to succeed Perception checks just to see the BBEG and make an attack roll.

  • Scenario B) If the BBEG is bloodied before the Honor Guards are defeated; the BBEG turns into a shadow and splits into four parts infusing the guards with his essence, who become even more powerful, half shadow creatures.

  • In scenario A, when the BBEG is bloodied in shadow creature form. A dark vortex opens in the ceiling channeling power into the BBEG, transforming the BBEG into a huge demonic being with a giant gaping maw that sucks the life force from the party every 5 rounds, otherwise attacks with over sized claw attacks.

  • In scenario B, when at least 2 of the shadow guards are defeated. The remaining shadow guards merge and become the BBEG again, then a dark vortex opens in the ceiling channeling power into the BBEG, transforming the BBEG into a huge demonic being with a giant gaping maw that sucks the life force from the party every 5 rounds, otherwise attacks with over sized claw attacks.

  • In this final form the vortex gives the BBEG constantly healing, and can only be defeated then the vortex is closed through an additional skill challenge, while avoiding the attacks of the BBEG itself.

  • Once the vortex is closed the healing stream to the BBEG is cut off and he may be attacked and defeated with normal attacks.

  • When the BBEG has reached bloodied in the demonic form, his attacks are boosted one more time, allowing him to use his life force absorbing power constantly.

  • When the BBEG is finally brought to 0 or lower HP, he begins to bubble and boil with a hellish inner fire. The party has one more skill challenge to escape the Nightmare Fortress, as things crash and crumble around the party has only 3 fails before the whole castle is consumed by hellfire.

  • End of the Campaign.



So this is just the direction I am taking the end of my campaign. A nice long epic feeling boss battle that should take a few sessions, and the entire time the PCs face a constant threat of defeat. Even after they've destroyed the final form of the BBEG they still must contend with escaping alive. Let me know what you think about my idea, as well as any ideas you've had. Happy DMing.
The Angry DM's Boss fight is a staged fight with a solo, where each stage is 1/3 the HP of a normal solo, but with different powers and tactics. I've used it twice with varying success. The first time I used it to represent a mage losing control of power he had recently acquired. The second was more like you desribed, with the first stage occuring in a warehouse with allies. When they were killed (what ended up happening) or if he had been sufficiently injured, he ran out the door which led to a skill challenge to chase him across town, ending with cornering him in an alley where he would fight again with new powers that would give him a more reckless feel. I found the transition to the skill challenge a little awkward, but my players got into it once things started moving. I ended up dropping the final stage when the last two rolls in the skill challenge phase were one player making an acrobatics check to pull him off a ladder, followed by another critting an intimidate check with a +10 bonus, which seemed an appropriate way to end things.
I have also run Angre DMS ideas and they work well.  The only thing I found frustrating for PCs is big damage on the Death attacks that change phase.  Use conditions or large scall map changes.  Sounds like you have a good idea.

Mathius
I have used the Angry DM's Boss fight ideas, along with some stuff from a few other sources, myself, and they worked really, really well.  Everyone had a fantastic time.  I basically redesigned a unique Black Dragon from the ground up, and worked really hard to make her memorable and difficult for my party.  Everyone really enjoyed it.  If you're interested in seeing me work through the bones of the project, or reading more about how the fight played out, you can read it all in the Strasa (the Raining City) thread, here on the Campaign and Adventure Workshop forum.  It's going to be a few pages back, at this point, but it's all there in case you need to see how a plan like Angry DM's comes together in real life.
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